From Cremsain Valley to the Naqab
Land Seizures, Annexations & Violations of International Law
July 31st, 2013 // 3:55 PM
My mom started the long journey home yesterday, and so on Monday we planned our final day trip to Cremisan Winery for the last round of gifts. We hired the “family” taxi driver (whose service has been called on for two decades) to take us up to the hill tops of Beit Jala. As I looked over the valley I saw the wall curve into the cavern of the hill, forming and a long U-shape. This version of the wall was even stranger than usual, topped by a solid-canopy forming a tent-like enclosure ostensibly “protecting” Israelis from Palestinians.
Like so many villages throughout Palestine, Cremisan Valley has been the site of numerous protests against Israel’s annexation wall. Both the Salesian Sisters of Cremisan Convent and the Palestinians of Beit Jala will soon see their land annexed by the wall, which will separate more than 50 Palestinian families from their agricultural land (1) with only restricted access via an agricultural gate. These gates are controled by the Israeli authorities who often leave Palestinians waiting for hours before responding to requests for entrance, if responding at all. In addition, the the wall will separate the Salesian Convent from 75% of its land (2). The separation wall will, in fact, divide the the Salesian Convent’s territory in two parts, with the agricultural land and monastery in “Israel proper”, and the convent and primary school in the West Bank.
An appeal is being filled (after a seven year legal battle) of the recent ruling to construct the annexation wall in Cremisan Valley; however, as with many actions in Palestine, success often requires international attention and support to postpone often inevitable land seizures and violations of international law. (Petition to save Cremisan Valley: http://www.change.org/petitions/save-the-valley-in-cremisan-support-bridges-not-walls).
To further demonstrate their authority in the face of popular resistance, Israeli forces raided the Cremisan Monastery in Bethlehem just this past Sunday, July 28th. As reported by the Independent Catholic News, “Witnesses told the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) that Israeli soldiers broke into the monastery, held the people who were inside, and inspected their personal documents. The raid has been condemned as a violation of the sanctity of places of worship, and a violation of international law.”(3)
As we drove up to Cremisan Winery, located on an uppermost hill top of Beit Jala, our taxi driver pulled momentarily to the side of the road as my mother pointed out the terraced slopes which have characterized the Palestinian landscape over countless centuries, and are now so quickly disappearing with the seizure of land and the lack of agricultural space. Our driver points out the farm at the bottom of the terraced slope. “This farm is completely cut off from the rest of Beit Jala by the wall. They have no electricity, and have to bring in their water supply by truck, which costs three times what it costs the Israeli settlers on the top of that hill over there. It’s hard for them to live here because they are cut off from everything, and are often threatened by settlers. But they live here still.”
Chances are that the separation wall will go up through Cremisan, and chances are that the Palestinian’s living in this territory will see their land annexed by Israel, and again their lives will be made more difficult. However, as the drivers said to me, “I am not scared of anything. I have been attacked by settlers three times. I was shot at by soldiers and had to run away and leave my car. In the siege of Bethlehem [in 2002] my entire house was destroyed. I am no longer scared. We lived here through all that, and we will continue living here. Inshallah, one day it won’t be like this.”
This is only one man’s story. And the story of Cremisan is the story of only one valley near Bethlehem. But this happens all over Palestine. Everyday. Tomorrow Palestinians and international activists will come together for the second time in the past month to protest the Prawer Plan, which intends to evict 50,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their land in the Naqab (Negev):
“On July 15, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel along with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and regional refugee camps, held numerous demonstrations against the so-called Prawer Plan being advanced by the Israeli government. Protesters – including Palestinian Members of the Israeli Knesset, marched, blocked roads, and were violently dispersed by security services (including several arrests).This second ‘Day of Rage’ promises to be even bigger, as Palestinians assert their opposition to a plan condemned just this week by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay.” (3)
Beit Jala farm and terraced field [farm in lower right corner]
Agricultural land belonging to the Cremisan Winery, Salesian Convent